On Saturday night, yet another London Underground driver went through the trauma of having a passenger break into her train cab.
A group of people became involved in a fight in the front carriage of the train between Kings Cross and Angel stations around 23.40. The fighting continued as the train entered the platform at Angel where some of those involved forced their way into the drivers cab and attacked the driver, screaming at her and preventing her from closing the cab door by trying to prise her hands from the door handle.
The driver has been left badly shaken, but fortunately suffered no serious physical injury this time. Luckily British Transport Police officers arrived relatively quickly, and a number of people were arrested. But this is just the latest in a series of incidents where passengers have entered the cabs of trains.
Our fear is that it is just a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or worse unless London Underground acts to make drivers cabs secure.
ASLEF Health and Safety reps have repeatedly raised their concerns about cab safety with management. The have pointed out that on many trains, only a ring pull cover prevents access to the cab, not only leaving drivers vulnerable to anyone who chooses to go in, but also creating a real risk that people with malign intent can exploit this access.
I am really disappointed that TfL management do not seem to appreciate just how serious this issue is for drivers across the underground network. Despite numerous meetings and reports there is still no indication that any action will be taken. This can not be allowed to continue.
Many ASLEF branches on London Underground have already passed motions calling for a ballot for strike action to force management to act. Others are due to discuss the issue in the next fortnight.
I am preparing a report for the ASLEF Executive Committee meeting this August, and will be fully supporting the request from our branches for action. We cannot allow this to drag on until one of our members is seriously injured or killed. The sad reality is that we work in a city where massive government cuts to police budgets have gone alongside a rise in violent crime. Train Drivers deserve a safe and secure environment to work in.
This is not a difficult problem to solve. Although cab doors provide an emergency evacuation route on Underground trains, it would be easy to find a technical fix that allowed door locks to be remotely released in emergencies. The real issue is money.
Since the government slashed TfL’s budget, there is huge pressure to cut costs. Senior management simply don’t believe it is worthwhile to spend the money needed to make your workplace safe for you and the system safer for everybody. We have to persuade them they are wrong.
Nothing is more important than staff being able to go home safely to your family at the end of your shift. If there is no other option than industrial action to achieve that, I know our members will be ready to do what is needed.